1929 Gillette razor

1929 Gillette razor

Television ads show men enjoying the morning shave. That isn’t true.

Men, largely, dread the morning whisker scrape despite attempts to make it less troublesome.

Some men have such heavy beards that to be publicly presentable they have to endure it twice.

There are two camps, maybe a third; electric, blade, not at all. For most of my life I’ve been an electric guy. When the little rotating blades are new and clean, shaving takes about three minutes. A relative shaves while driving to work.

A clean electric razor is important. Mine tolerates water so I pop the head off and hold it under hot water until the whisker mud is gone. Every other month I clean every crack with a brush.

It is no wonder that men in the 19th century wore beards. Shaving was not as simple as scraping hair: Preparation was required.

When I see a man with a full beard I wonder how clean it is. Any particle of food caught among the whiskers is a kitchen for a colony of bacteria.

Men have been shaving for as long as it was possible.

Alexander the Great died in 323 BC and was depicted as clean-shaven as are most statues of Roman and ancient Greek males.

Before modern safety razors, the only option was a straight razor. Learning to use one involved a painful learning curve.

My grandfathers used straight razors. They were honed with a stone then applied to the canvas side of the strop and finished on the leather.

Idle men honed the blade of their pocket knife against the leather sole of their shoe.

The leather strop also assisted in correcting hard-headed kids.

My father used a straight razor until 1929. His first cousin gave him a gold-plated safety razor as a college graduation present.

Most men of my era who received a barber shop shave were scraped by a straight razor.

A man’s face was covered with a hot towel to help remove the natural oils of the skin and soften the whiskers. A hot soap was applied to lubricate the skin for the blade.

The soap came from a disk of shaving soap applied with a shaving brush.

Shaving lotions included alcohol to antiseptically clean the raw skin but left a burn. Some lotions contained mint or something that felt cool to the skin, and a fragrance.

I received my first razor before I needed it on my 13th birthday from Uncle Tom Watts.

Safety razors were cheap in that time. Gillette razors were sold for a dollar but the company made money on the replacement blades.

Plastic razors are cheap and I know of a guy who used the same one for nearly a year.

The secret was to completely dry the blade immediately after use.

Try it and let me know. I’m still an electric guy.

Joe Phillips writes his “Dear me” columns for several small newspapers. He has many connections to Walker County, including his grandfather, former superintendent Waymond Morgan. He can be reached at joenphillips@hotmail.com.

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